“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” – Leonard Nimoy
I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. Surprising, isn’t it? It’s really one of the biggest misconceptions about me. People have always assumed I was into Star Trek. I’m always getting Star Trek stuff given to me, which I quickly regift or shamelessly put up on e-bay. I suppose the reason people assume I’m a Star Trek fan is because it is so entrenched in pop culture lore, and it goes hand in hand with the geek culture that I am immersed in. However, despite the fact that I’ve never really been much of a fan, I have seen my share of it and I respect the massive legacy of the cult sci-fi series, as well as the phenomena that is the fandom. Star Trek IS pop culture.
So, with that in mind, I gladly paid over a hundred dollars to see Leonard Nimoy speak in Toronto during the summer of 2002. Even at that time paying that sort of money to do a Q & A session with an actor was considered a lot, but you were guaranteed an autograph photo and it was during a period where Nimoy was claiming he was retiring from the autograph show and sci-fi convention circuit (he would come out of retirement a few years later and appear at many more shows). At the time I figured it’d be the only chance I’d have to ever see Leonard Nimoy and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness one of the biggest legends in pop culture history.
Now it was a different time back then and I was a different person. I was younger, more cynical, more hard hearted. PCA did not yet exist and I hadn’t even started writing professionally and, although I had been collecting autographs and having celebrity encounters for a few years, I had not yet done a celebrity interview.
I was ushered into a small convention hall (much smaller than the ones they use today at massive comic conventions) with approximately two hundred Star Trek fans. It was exactly what you’d expect to be like. There were Vulcans and people in Starfleet uniforms, and one guy in a very detailed Klingon costume and another guy who was cosplaying a pretty mean James Doohan. There was a buzz in the air as we all waited for the appearance of our hero Leonard Nimoy.
Well, we didn’t wait long and with a thunder of applause Leonard Nimoy took the stage. Even with my seat near the back of the hall, peering through my dim eyes, did I notice how old Leonard Nimoy looked. He was dressed casually in a dark button up sweater, much like one that Mr. Rogers would wear. He thanked us for the warm greeting and then, to all of our surprises, launched into a rambly speech about whales. That right. Whales. At no point did any of the organizers tell us that we were paying over a hundred dollars to hear Leonard Nimoy talk about whales. I can’t say that it was very interesting, but hey, it was Leonard Nimoy talking in that distinct serious baritone of his which was enough to give any geek goose bumps. It was what it was I guess and, well, I was guaranteed an autograph picture at the end of the presentation. So the audience listened politely as Nimoy talked about whales for forty five minutes of the hour that we had with him. Then, once he was finished, he opened the floor for questions.
Two hundred hands went up.
Leonard Nimoy picked someone in the front row who asked a questions about Star Trek. You could tell Leonard Nimoy was a bit annoyed having expected a question about whales. I don’t remember what the question was, but he politely answered. Then he asked for another question.
One hundred and ninety nine hands went up.
Leonard Nimoy said “Yes….you in the back…..in the hat.”
I looked around for the guy in the hat. Leonard Nimoy said “Yes…you in the black hat. You.”
I pointed at myself in disbelief. Leonard Nimoy said “Yes, what is your question?”
I stood up to get some leverage and to allow my voice to carry across the convention hall. “Hi Mr. Nimoy” I said. “Thanks so much for coming to Toronto.”
“I’m glad to be here” Leonard Nimoy said to me.
“Yeah” I said, looking at him.
And then that’s when it got a bit surreal. I was looking at Leonard Nimoy, and he was looking at me. I was talking to him, and that distinct voice of his was answering me. Suddenly I sort of blanked out and I thought back to that old Mego Mr. Spock doll I had as a kid, and wondering whatever happened to it. I then became aware that all the eyes in the room was on me. A camera from Space: The Imagination Station was pointed at me and, most of all, Leonard Nimoy was staring at me and waiting for my question.
Well I had a question for Leonard Nimoy in mind but, to this day, I don’t remember what it was. I do know whatever it was, it wasn’t about whales. But instead of what I was going to ask I decided to ask the question that I knew all of us REALLY wanted to ask.
“Well Mr. Nimoy,” I said meekly, “I was on the computer and I found a video of you on a beach singing about The Hobbit surrounded by go-go dancers in Spock ears.”
“Did you now?” Leonard Nimoy said with a smirk.
“Yes I did,” I said, “Well….what the fuck Mr. Nimoy? What the fuck?”
The whole convention hall burst out in laughter. Leonard Nimoy stood on the stage, half annoyed and half amused.
“You found this on the internet?” he said to me.
“Yes I did sir” I said.
“Somebody get me my lawyer” Nimoy replied to more laughter, and then I knew that my moment was over.
Today I’d never speak to a performer so uncouthly as I did Leonard Nimoy, but I was impressed with the way that he handled my question. I’d never say I met Leonard Nimoy as much as I’d say we had a brief encounter. A small moment in time where we looked at one another and exchanged a few words. It wasn’t my finest hour but I’ll admit that I did ask the one question that burned in me the most.
Behind the desk that I write this is an autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock that I got that day in Toronto. It is a keepsake from my brief encounter with one of the true giants of the pop culture journey.
Speed be with you Leonard Nimoy as you boldly go where no man has gone before.
Play all my records, keep dancing all night, but leave me alone for a while. – Lesley Gore “It’s My Party”
While all the other kids in my elementary school were listening to Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, I was up in my bedroom listening to Lesley Gore. The sounds of her sunshine bubblegum pop music came out of my little childhood record player from a scratchy old LP which was purchased by an Aunt, but handed down to my mother, and eventually rediscovered by me in the pile of barely played records in the corner of the rec room. While getting ready for school each morning, despite what new record I might own, The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore somehow ended up on my turntable. I knew the words to each song on each side of the LP by heart – It’s My Party, Judy’s Turn to Cry, Just Let Me Cry, Hey Now…..each moment and note change. I’d sing them all. As a result, Lesley Gore became a touchstone in both the musical and pop culture evolution of my life. Although my musical tastes would radically change, a Lesley Gore song could always tug on the strings of my heart hard. I can still sing each line to each one of her songs.
That’s why, with tears still in my eyes, my heart is broken as I type these words right now. Lesley Gore obviously still had a very strong hold on my heart.
At age 17 Lesley Gore became the most famous teenage girl in America when she hit the top of the Billboard charts with “It’s My Party” in 1964, paving the way for future pop princesses.
When Lesley Gore hit the radar in 1963 rock/pop was just starting to come of age. Elvismania was over and the Beatles weren’t even a blip yet. The sophomoric era of Fabian and Bobby Vee was coming to an end, making way for the more sophisticated pop sounds by Gene Pitney and The Righteous Brothers under the watchful eye of Phil Spector, the evolution of Motown and the surf rock out of California which was greasing the wheels of the rock explosion to come. Enter Lesley Gore. Prim, proper, cute and perhaps a tad bit naive, Lesley Gore became music’s original pop princess, paving the way for future superstars such as Madonna, The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. But unlike those who came after her, Lesley Gore needed no gimmicks or auto tuning. Armed with a string of catchy pop hits from the Brill building and the powerful backing of producer Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore became the symbol of the all American every girl, and her music and image would find mass appeal to both male and, especially, female fans alike.
In 1964, at the height of her popularity, Lesley Gore appeared in the concert film “The T.A.M.I Show” in which she was given ten unedited minutes to perform a string of her biggest hits. Despite sharing the stage with The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, Lesley Gore got the biggest audience reaction.
It might be difficult to understand the star power that Lesley Gore had during the first two years of her career. Simply put, she was the biggest musical star in America. In the commentary track to the DVD of the 60’s concert film The T.A.M.I Show, director John Landis, who attended the infamous 1964 showcase concert held at the Santa Moncia Civic Auditorium as a seventh grader, states that Lesley Gore got the biggest reaction from the audience despite sharing the stage with legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Beach Boys. Although these other acts would go down in history for their social and artistic importance, to the audience of primarily young teenagers it was Lesley Gore whose songs they were hearing on the radio. In fact, the year before she was nominated for a Grammy for best song for It’s My Party, was given the Billboard prize for song of the year and had just recently won the Cashbox award for female vocalist of the year. Furthermore, she had eight hit songs on the charts within fifteen months. Lesley Gore was the most famous teenage girl in America. As a result, the producers of The T.A.M.I Show dedicated ten solid unedited minutes to Lesley’s performance, allowing her to perform six songs back to back and uncut. It was Lesley Gore at her finest hour, and she was able to hold her own against the other dynamic acts in the film.
Throughout her early hits Lesley Gore’s music had a disturbing subtext of repression and emotional abuse, which hit home with a generation of young girls who were still pushed down by societies norms. However, she evened out the playing field when she recorded “You Don’t Own Me” in 1964 which would go on to become a feminist anthem.
However, when looking back at many of her songs, there was a disturbing subtext of repression and emotional abuse in many of her biggest this. Right out of the gate with It’s My Party Lesley was already in the role of the victim. It was a disturbing trend which would continue through Maybe I Know, Just Let Me Cry and, most viciously, That’s the Way Boys Are which had illusions of mental and physical abuse and put forth an idea that it was okay, and even expected, for men to cheat on women. But in the pre-feminist era of America, these were the sad social reality of the teenage girl who still hadn’t yet found her voice. It was painful, and Lesley Gore harnessed that pain and put it into song and millions of girls worldwide could relate to it.
Thus, when Lesley released You Don’t Own Me in 1964, that song was such a massive juxtaposition for not only her body of work, but the music being sung by women in the pop scene in general. It was a song of liberation sung by a nice girl which had never been done before in pop music. The song was more up to the speed of a tougher girl band like The Shangris-Las, but Lesley Gore’s girlish rendition of such a powerful song brought the idea of self-respect and liberation to the normal American girls who were not readily exposed to the budding women’s liberation movement which was growing in large city centers and university campuses. It was an extremely early musical moment in feminism from an unlikely source proving that Lesley Gore had more strength and clout than the public might have realized. In retrospect, You Don’t Own Me was Lesley Gore’s most important recording.
In 1967 Lesley Gore appeared opposite of Julie Newmar as Catwoman’s sidekick Pussycat in a classic episode of “Batman” in which she premiered her minor hit “California Nights.”
But of course, there was an interesting real life drama going on in Lesley’s life that nobody knew at the time and added another powerful subtext to her songs. During a time when homosexuality was still deemed to be deviant in society, it was unthinkable that America’s premier pop princess might be gay. Lesley Gore would publicly say that she didn’t realize that she was gay until she attended Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, but I have a conflicting story to this. During the 1960’s Lesley Gore was often escorted to premiers and parties by actor Aron Kincaid, who I got to know on a personal level near the end of his life. Aron and Leslie appeared together in a few films during the mid 60’s including Girls on the Beach and Ski Party where Lesley can be seen paying special attention to him while singing Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows. During one of our visits I asked Aron if he knew that Lesley was gay during this time and he replied “Yes I did. She had told me, so I helped guard her secret as her date for a while.” It was also Aron who said to me “Lesley Gore was the smartest girl I ever knew.” This painted a fuller picture of a young woman who obviously was keeping a very guarded secret during a time where it was one thing to be repressed as a young woman, but another to be repressed as a lesbian. Perhaps the angst that Lesley brought to her songs weren’t just about boys, but about her own repressed sexual identity as well.
Over the years I tried many times to contact Lesley Gore for a PCA interview but our connections never seemed to come together. She always seemed two steps ahead of me. It hurts my heart that we always seemed to be only a few degrees of separation from each other but never spoke. So tonight I dug out that old copy of The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore that my Aunt bought decades ago and which still is in my record collection to this day and lay it once again on my record turn table. It’s still has that scratchy sound and the occasional skip, but I still know all the lyrics. I still can sing all the songs.
Tonight it’s not just Judy’s turn to cry. Tonight the whole world weeps for Lesley Gore.
Hide every lovely flower from my sight, Don’t let that dreamy moon come out, oh, tonight. And please don’t let me see two lovers kiss, Don’t let me be reminded what I miss. He said good-bye, Just let me cry.
Although his face may not be recognizable to most pop culture fans, Felix Silla has had one of the biggest careers of anyone ever to participate in a PCA interview.
Standing 3’11”, stunt man and actor Felix Silla may be the smallest person ever to give an interview to PCA. However, there is little doubt that he has had one of the biggest careers. Although his face may not be recognizable to the public, he has worked beside some of the biggest stars in television and film history, and has had a behind the scenes presence in some of televisions biggest shows and films biggest blockbusters. His television appearances include Bonanza, Petticoat Junction, The Monkees, Betwitched, HR Pufnstuf, Lidsville, Bewitched, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Star Trek, Night Gallery, The Dukes of Hazzard and Married with Children. Meanwhile, he has played various role as well as did stunt work in Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno, Poltergeist, The Black Bird, The Manitou, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Howard the Duck, Return of the Jedi, The Golden Child, Under the Rainbow, The Sting II, Spaceballs and Batman Returns. Few film professionals can claim a resume with as many memorable productions as Felix Silla.
Although he only appeared in seventeen episodes of “The Addams Family,” Felix Silla’s character Cousin Itt became one of the most beloved and iconic creatures from the series.
But it was behind an elaborate costume made of hair that Felix made his biggest mark in pop culture history when he played the role of the mysterious and beloved Cousin Itt on The Addams Family. Joining the series twenty episodes into its first season, Felix made only seventeen appearances as the strange little creature without a face, but he immediately become one of the show’s most popular characters. Still a beloved iconic television character, Cousin Itt gave Felix Silla solid immortality in the history of television.
A few years later Felix Silla got the role of another popular character when he took on the role of Twiki the Robot on Buck Rogers. Although the character was voiced by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, Silla worked opposite Gil Gerard and Erin Gray over two seasons of the popular sci-fi drama. A favorite with young viewers, Twiki was merchandised and became a popular character for kids hungry for Star Wars type fare, and gave Felix another landmark role to his already monumental career.
Appearing in 80′s film franchise such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Felix Silla also took on the popular role of Twiki the Robot on “Buck Rogers.”
Originally from Rome, Italy, Felix Silla came to North America at age 16 and got a job working for Barnum and Bailey Circus. But after a few years under the big top, he realized that the circus wasn’t the place for him. Settling down in Los Angeles, Silla eventually found a new career doing stunts and stand in work for children in television and movies. With his short stature and circus training, Felix Silla became a commodity which opened the doors to some of the biggest productions in movie history which led him to appearing on the other side of the camera as well as behind it.
A great man and a fantastic storyteller, it’d be impossible to fit all of his Hollywood stories into a single interview, but for an hour and a half Felix gave it a go. The result is an interesting journey through film history from a man with a truly unique perspective.
Pop culture’s original bad boy, “Leave it to Beaver’s: Eddie Haskell, portrayed by Ken Osmond.
With a perfidious compliment and over the top delivery, Eddie Haskell was pop culture’s original bad boy. Sneaky and shallow, the smirky best friend of Wally Cleaver on the classic TV sit-com Leave it to Beaver not only became a pop culture favorite, but slowly made his way into the cultural lexicon as the archetype of society’s shifty and insincere wise-guys. Eddie Haskell was the kind of kid that you would hate if you met him, but you couldn’t help but love watching him get his pals in trouble. For over fifty years Eddie Haskell has remained to be one of the most popular supporting characters in television history.
When Eddie Haskell first appeared on television screens in 1957 nobody would predict how much of a cultural icon he would become. Behind that smirk was fourteen year old actor Ken Osmond who had been appearing in films, television and commercials since the age of four. However, the break out role of Eddie Haskell would become his most famous role, making him a household name for decades to come.
In the role of one of television’s most endearing characters, Ken Osmond is a favorite at autograph shows world wide and always reading to brush Eddie Haskell off for one more screen appearance.
Ken Osmond jeered and connived his way through six seasons of Leave it to Beaver where he became just as popular, and questionably more popular, then the shows stars Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow. Highly quotable, his bad boy persona was ground breaking compared to the sugary sweet characters that were often played by teenagers on television during the golden era of television. However, his popularity would take its toll on his career and when Leave it to Beaver wrapped up in 1963 Ken Osmond found that he was faced with typecasting so crippling that it was preventing him from getting the roles he wanted. By the end of the 1960’s Ken Osmond realized that he could no longer make a decent living as an actor. Shifting gears completely, Osmond joined the Los Angeles police force where he spend the next thirty years patrolling the streets of LA.
However, between his law enforcement career, Ken Osmond was always willing to brush the character of Eddie Haskell off for token appearances where he reprised the role on an episode of Happy Days and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, a McDonald’s advertising campaign, the ill-fated and much forgotten big screen remake of Leave it to Beaver and 101 episodes of the syndicated series Still the Beaver from 1983 to 1989.
Currently retired from the LAPD, Ken Osmond is still a favorite at autograph shows across the world and has recently wrote an autobiography alongside writer Christopher J. Lynch titled Eddie: The Life and Times of America’s Preeminent Bad Boy. I met Ken Osmond at the Hamilton Comic Convention where he took a few moments to talk to me about his career and his smarmy alter ego.
Ginger or Mary Ann? It’s enough to give anybody a headache. Poor Gilligan never had a chance.
Ginger or Mary Ann? It’s the kind of pop culture problem that could give Sigmund Freud a headache.
When Gilligan’s Island premiered on television fifty years ago, the critics quickly dismissed it, stating that it was one of the worst television shows ever made. Little did they realize that it would become not only a beloved television staple, but would entertain generations of kids for decades to come. Part of the success of the show was creator Sherwood Schwartz’s creation of some of televisions most beloved characters – Gilligan, the Skipper and the other stranded castaways. But they were more than just an eccentric gathering of odd ball characters. They were broad stereotypes taken from a cross section of society – the fool, the leader, the intellect, the elite, the vamp and the all American girl. These social archetypes have managed to transcend the years, giving Gilligan’s Island a timeless appeal. The characters are as relevant today as they were five decades ago.
In the role of Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” Dawn Wells became a genuine pop culture sex symbol and a cultural archtype for the all American “good” girl.
As genuine pop culture sex symbols, Ginger and Mary Ann, played by Tina Louise and Dawn Wells, became the first crushes for kids watching throughout North America. The juxtaposition of the two characters were so broad that they became opposite ends of the sexual ying and yang – the good girl/bad girl, the virgin/whore, the girl you bring home to Mom/the girl you don’t. Perhaps Schwartz didn’t plan it that way, but there was a lot more going on on that Island then maybe met the eye.
But what messages did Ginger and Mary Ann give to girls that grew up on the show? Well, as Dawn Wells reveals in her new book, What Would Mary Ann Do: A Guide to Life, perhaps today’s society needs a lot more “Mary Ann’s” and a few less “Ginger’s.”
Raised by a single mother is Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells, a former Ms. America contestant, made her way to Hollywood in the late 1950’s where she appeared on TV programs such as Bonanza, Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip before taking the role of Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island in 1964. Pretty, bright eyed and enthusiastic, the role made her a cultural icon.
In her new book “What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life,” actress Dawn Wells is talking to girls about why they should be a “Mary Ann” instead of a “Ginger.”
Drawing from a combination of personal life events and plain common sense, Dawn Wells uses her famous role as a symbol in her new book to talk to modern girls about values and morals . As she explains, it’s not about being a “goody two shoes” as much as making good decisions. While “Gingers” may seem to have more fun, but “Mary Anns” are the ones who get married.
Dawn Wells has been touring North America with her new book and talking to girls from coast to coast, proving that there is still a lot that can be learned from Ginger and Mary Ann. While on tour she took a moment to talk to me about how her own experiences helped shape this book and how Mary Ann has become a good pop culture role model for girls and women of all ages and generations.
I often find it difficult to create a yearly “best of” list for films because I always feel that I have yet to discover the hidden gems of the year due to the fact that I live in a city where the local cineplex bring in comic book movies, family films and rom-coms until the Oscar nominations come out. 2014 was a year where the films I anticipated the most disappointed me, and too many sequels bogged up the landscape. However, that didn’t stop a few remarkable films from crossing my radar. If you don’t see the films you loved the most this year please e-mail me your personal favorites at email@example.com so I can preview what you saw and loved. I still think I have a lot yet to discover from 2014.
PCA MOVIE OF THE YEAR – BOYHOOD
Richard Linkletter’s epic coming of age film, Boyhood, is potentially the most groundbreaking film in decades. Experimental and highly original, it was an experiment that was doomed to fail but, miraculously, it didn’t. The result is a a beautiful time spanning journey through the life of a broken family unit. Nothing like this has ever been filmed before.
The many faces of “Boyhood”star Ellar Coltrane from seven to eighteen. Twelve year in the making, “Boyhood” is the most intense coming of age film ever made. Watching the characters grow up before your eyes is incredible.
In 2002 Richard Linkletter began filming Boyhood and for the next twelve years, would bring his cast back together creating a natural time lapse which allows the audience to see the same people age and change within a three hour film. Of course the most radical change perceived by the audience is that of the film’s young stars, most notably Ellar Coltrane as the film’s protagonist Mason. Seven years old when the film began, the audience watches him grow and mature to the age of eighteen in front of their very eyes. As time ebbs and flows through his emotional and physical journey, he is joined by Patricia Arquette as his bright but emotional mother who is prone to making poor relationship decisions, Ethan Hawke as his weekend father who the audience watches grow from loveable slacker to responsible family man, and newcomer Lorelei Linkletter (Richard Linkletter’s daughter), as Mason’s headstrong and often bossy older sister Samantha who, in the same way as Coltrane, ages from nine to twenty in front of the audience.
“Boyhood” isn’t just about the coming of age of one boy, but also how time affects a broken family unit played by (left to right) Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Libby Vallari and Lorelie Linkletter. Lorelie Linkletter also gives a remarkable performance as the audience watches her grow up from seven to twenty through the course of the film.
Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linkletter are incredible actors and it is amazing that Linkletter was able to keep them under the radar for so long. With Boyhood being the darling of the Golden Globe’s, and with Oscar nominations written all over it, hopefully we’ll see both of the films’ young stars move into other roles within Hollywood.
Just like real life, the story seems to change focus and goes into different directions as time goes on. Instead of being a story, it is more a character study of a sensitive and artistic boy, as well as his family unit. The passage of time is the factor that makes the film so unique and is a testament to the creative passion of Linkletter and the devotion of his team. Twelve years in the making, Boyhood is a triumph and it’s unlikely it could be done as successfully again, although I am sure that many copycat directors are about to try. A true masterpiece in film, Boyhood is something truly original in an industry that often lacks originally.
OTHER MOVIES WE LIKED
Although many may argue that Gone Girl is nothing more than another formula thriller, I’d argue that it is a well pieced cat and mouse mystery filled with suspense, twists, turns, and surprises which, if he were still alive, Alfred Hitchcock would have filled himself. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a bar owner in a small town who returns home on his anniversary to find his wife Amy, played by Rosemond Pike, is missing. A minor celebrity, due to being used as the prototype for the main character in her parent’s popular children’s books, a media frenzy occurs with both the TV news and the police looking at Affleck as being the killer. As the story of the couple’s past unfolds in flashbacks, Affleck is just smarmy enough to make the audience wonder if, just maybe, he did it. But a mid-movie twist turns the whole thing on its head, which is preventing me from revealing much of anything at all. Director David Fincher uses the advent of modern 24 hour news channels and combines it with yellow sensationalist journalism that dates back to William Randloph Heart. The result goes beyond being a thriller but making the audience reexamine their relationship with news media. Gone Girl has its flaws, but it is one of the strongest thrillers in years and Pike and Affleck are terrific. In fact, Affleck is so good that you almost thing that maybe….just maybe….he might be able to pull off Batman after all. Maybe….
This great little Australian horror flick didn’t get a widespread release in North America, but has gained massive popularity due to it being included on so many “Best of 2014” lists, and rightfully so. Writer/director Jennifer Kent creates a bizarre and truly frightening experience with her horror creation The Babadook. Essie Davis stars as Amelia, the widowed mother of a troubles autistic boy Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman. Pushed to the limit of a near nervous breakdown due to both her grief and the alienation that she receives due to her son’s erratic and often bizarre behavior, Amelia discovers a creepy children’s book called The Babadook left in her house. The story of a “boogeyman” who lives in closets and under beds that come to take away little children, the book terrifies Samuel who begins to obsess about it, claiming that The Babadook is real and in their house. First disregarding Samuel’s outburst as being part of his overactive imagination, Amelia begins to suspect something supernatural may be in her house after all. Is there really a Babadook, or is she just going mad due to exhaustion and the demands of her unstable child? A haunting film, The Babadook is stylishly filmed, especially a terrifying nightmare montage reflective of the style of silent horror director Benjamin Christensen. Sure to please horror fans, the film adds elements of drama, pathos and its own horror as Amelia descends into madness due to her inability to cope with her own child. An emotional and terrifying journey, I see sequel written all over this one.
For the most part, the American output of horror films was disappointing, with the films being either dull or idiotic. The exception was John R. Leonetti’s Annabelle. A prequel to the hit 2013 film The Conjuring, Annabelle tells the origins of Annabelle the haunted doll. However, while The Conjuring is based on a true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and while Annabelle is a real haunted doll that is owned by the couple, the origins of the doll are unknown. Thus Leonetti relied on the imagination of Gary Dauberman to flesh on a fictional origin of the doll for this film. But either fiction or fact, the film works. Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis play a young couple, Mia and John, whose home is invaded by Satanic cultists. Pregnant with their first child, Mia barely survives the attack, but the cultists are killed by police. However, in their wake, they have left something behind. A vintage doll that John had bought for Mia which they named Anabelle is acting strangely, as if it now has a mind of its own. Basic Hollywood popcorn thriller, Annabelle has some truly terrifying moments, and it will make you question ever bringing a doll into your home again.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Okay. So everybody that ever saw Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much loves it. It truly is the action/adventure film of the year. But let’s be blunt about what’s really impressive about Guardians of the Galaxy. As a comic books go, Guardians is truly a D list franchise. Even Stan Lee himself admitted that he wasn’t sure who these characters were. As someone who has been reading comic for thirty years, I can tell you that I have never read a book with the Guardians of the Galaxy in it. However, due to expert casting, lovable characters, a witty script, some action, adventure and a lot of fun, Guardians of the Galaxy is now one of the most profitable comic book franchises in the world today. Starlord, Groot and Rocket Raccoon are now household names and the film eclipsed classic heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man and The X-Men at the box office this summer. But just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you’re good. Well, Guardians of the Galaxy is that good. Look – I am tired of the superhero film genre. It’s over played, has become dull and repetitive and for the most part they just aren’t good movies. I don’t want to see another comic book movie. Truly I don’t. But with that said, why am I on pins and needles waiting for a Guardians of the Galaxy film? Because it’s just that good. Perhaps other directors and producers will learn from Guardians and realize that dark and serious isn’t how you create a successful comic book movie. You need to add a little element of fun into the mix too. I am Groot!
Coming in 2015 – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
What to Watch for in 2015 – Two words – Star Wars. With George Lucas handing the reins to JJ Abrams Star Wars fans are finally going to get the sequels that they deserve. There is no way on God’s green Earth that Abrams can screw the franchise up more than Lucas did with the ill-fated prequels. With Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford back in the roles of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, hopefully the bitter taste left in the mouths of fans worldwide can finally be cleansed. Admit it – you got emotional when you saw the Millennium Falcon in the trailer. I know I did. Peanuts returns to the big screen for the first time since the death of Charles Schultz in a new computer animated full length feature. With the Schultz estate hands on with the project, including Schultz’ son Bryan as one of the writers of the film, this could be a rejuvenation of a beloved comic franchise. The previews shown thus far are delightful. The Woman in Black 2 is coming, and it could go either way. A brand new story based on Susan Hill’s ghostly character, the last film featuring the story was mediocre and lacked the subtlety of the original book, stage play and 1989 teleplay. But it’s a favorite franchise of mine so it’ll be interesting to see which way it goes. We’ll have to wait and see. And speaking of horror franchises, Samara returns in Rings, a prequel to the popular The Ring films. Little information has been released yet, but The Ring, as well as the original Ringu films from Japan, are amongst my favorites and I can’t wait for the creepy little well girl to return to the big screen.
Although the world came to love him in the role of Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” Don Most has worn many hats as an entertainer working in television, theater, film and music.
Performance is something that runs through Don Most’s blood. Throughout the past five decades it is something Don has proved again and again in each step he takes along the pop culture journey. The world first got to know him as Donny Most in the role of Ralph Malph on the iconic 70’s sit-com Happy Days. Under his red locks and through his freckled face, Don was the wise cracking member of the Happy Days gang. One of the most successful television shows of all time, Don had his face on everything from action figures to animated programs where he and Anson “Potsie” Webber played sidekicks to Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham and hung out with Henry Winkler’s enigmatic character, The Fonz. But when Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, marking the end of the classic era of the series, he often found himself sitting in the shadow of Ralph, preventing him from getting the kind of acting roles that he wanted. As a result, Don Most had to reinvent himself and his career. Between taking guest starring roles on favorites like Love Boat, CHIP’s, Murder She Wrote and Baywatch, Don turned to voice acting, heater and directing as a way to continue a career in show business.
Still maintaining a strong fan following from his role in “Happy Days,” Don Most has recently turning to music, bringing his revue “Singin’ and Swinging’” to jazz clubs across America as he performs some of the great standards of the American Songbook.
Although still recognized as Ralph Malph today, with time distancing himself from his Happy Days character, Don has been popping back on the pop culture radar again. Recently taking a reoccurring role on Glee as Jayma Mays’ father, Rusty Pillsbury, Don has made appearances on Bones and Men of a Certain Age and appeared in the independent films Chez Upshaw and Campin’ Buddies.
Now Don is turning another corner in his career by putting his focus in a new surprising venture that has taken fans by surprise. Don Most has put together his own musical night club act, Singin’ and Swingin’. Backed his own band and performing some of the great jazz classics from the American song book, Don Most has been taking his act to clubs from New York to LA, singing the songs that he loves and getting a warm reception from audiences. Catching Don on the road between gigs, Don revealed to me that while we think of him as an actor, he really entered show business through song as a teenager. Music is still something that has a strong hold on his heart, and now he is bringing the music he loves to his fans.
One of Canada’s most important bands from the 1990′s, The Tea Party, featuring Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows are back with their first new album in a decade.
During the 1990’s rock trio The Tea Party was one of the most important bands in Canada. Comprised of three friends from Windsor, Ontario – singer/guitarist Jeff Martin, bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows – The Tea Party formed in Toronto in the early 90’s and found national success with Save Me in 1993. Embraced by discontented and alienated Generation Xer’s who were looking toward Seattle’s grunge scene, The Tea Party combined hard rock with Middle Eastern instruments, creating their own unique sound. Through seven studio albums, twenty one cross country Canadian tours, and a string of alternative hits such as Sister Awake, Walking Wounded and The River, The Tea Party became a touchstone on the Canadian rock scene for an entire generation of music fans. However, in 2005 the band disbanded over “creative differences,” and the three members went onto other projects. Jeff Martin attempted a solo career, Jeff Burrows worked on various music projects while working as a Windsor based rock DJ and Stuart Chatwood composed music for the video game Prince of Persia.
The Tea Party – The Ocean at the End (2014)
But in 2011 The Tea Party reemerged for what was believed to be a brief reunion, and by the end of the summer it was announced that it was such a positive experience that the group planned to stay together. Now, ten years after the release of their “final” album, The Tea Party has released The Ocean at the End, their first album of new material since their reformation.
Having recently returned from Australia, where they maintain a massive following, and currently promoting the album with a Canadian wide tour, I was able to talk with Stuart Chatwood about the new album and The Tea Party’s return to the studio. Although much has changed since the 1990’s, The Tea Party has managed to evolve while keeping their unique sound which fans are drawn to. The result is a great album reminding listeners what well-crafted rock LP is supposed to sound like.
Bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood is back with The Tea Party after a successful side project of writing the music for the video game “Prince of Persia.”
Sam Tweedle: I’ve spent the last few days listening to The Ocean at the End and just trying to absorb it as a whole. What was it like to go back into the studio with Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows and put together new material after such a long hiatus?
Stuart Chatwood: Well, I think some of it was familiar because it’s the eighth or ninth studio record, and we’ve been in other studios with other artists as well. But some of it was unique because we’ve grown so much as individuals now, and as you mature you tend to not give a damn about what people think anymore. When you’re young and in the studio you [say] “Am I playing this vibrato right? Am I bending this note right?” Now it’s like “I know what I’m doing. I’m going to play my part. If we need to fix it later then we’ll address that.” It just changes the dynamic in the studio. Takes get done quicker. Ideas are committed to tape. When you do things quicker you get to try out new things because there’s time left. I also think it was good to work with the three band members again because we hadn’t recorded in that manner in quite a while. We started working with a few other co-producers towards the end in 2004. So it was nice to have Jeff Martin have the reins again.
Sam: Let’s talk about the evolution. Certainly we all evolve over ten years, but when you are listening to this album it clearly sounds like a Tea Party album and not some sort of updated thing. How are you able to evolve yet still maintain the same sound that your fan base comes to expect from you?
“When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations. Imagine there being four popular rock stations. Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4. We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs. It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on.”
Stuart: I just think it’s in our system. It’s in our blood. We grew up in Windsor, across from Detroit, which is the greatest music city in my opinion. When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations. Imagine there being four popular rock stations. Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4. We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs. It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on. So that’s just in our system to begin with. Another contributing factor was that Jeff Martin was not allowed to listen to that music until a certain age. His Dad insisted that he listen to blues, and play blues, only.
Sam: No kidding?
“one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is. When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar. “
Stuart: Yeah. He was not allowed to listen to Black Sabbath or Deep Purple records in the house. So before Jeff heard every single track by Led Zeppelin, he heard every single track by B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King, so it gave him that context. Just to make that point more clear, there is probably no other city in Canada that has more of a blues influence than Windsor which is surrounded by America. So that is the benefit of being from Windsor I guess. So that’s in our system and, whether we like it or not, that’s going to come into our music. I think one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is. When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar. He had a Marshall Stack in our apartment and he’d just crank that thing and put on Led Zeppelin I, play it until the end, then put on Led Zeppelin II, and continue the process. I would take over and play bass for a while. Our poor neighbors. But back then it was just so instantaneous. He’d here one riff, think about it for a second, and then his hands would be playing it. We had to get him back to that way of thinking. It happened on this record. The solo on [the song] The Ocean at the End is probably some of the best guitar that he’s ever recorded in his career.
Sam: That song is a real triumph. It’s like one of those classic rock songs that exceeds radio play timing.
Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull joins The Tea Party for the title track of their latest release, “The Ocean at the End”: “When you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson. Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour.”
Stuart: It’s our eight and a half minute epic song. We had Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull perform on that one. That was great.
Sam: How did you get Ian involved?
Stuart: In 1994 we toured England and he showed up at this little pub we were playing in Leicester, England. Our manger came up to us and said “Ian Anderson, the flute player from Jethro Tull, is at the back bar” and we said “Okay. Sound check is over!” We went back and had a couple of pints with him and he told us that it was great and that we were one of the young bands that caught his ear because we had captured the sound of his golden era and we tried to move things a little bit forward. So getting a compliment like that form his was incredible. So when we were trying to finish this record we had some mellotron flutes on that song, which is a keyboard instrument, and I wondered how we could humanize it more with some real flutes. So when you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson. Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour. I got an e-mail from someone last night who went and saw Jethro Tull and they play Sister Awake and a lot of our songs between sets.
“There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end. We were barely friends. Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.”
Sam: Do you guys find that you gel as a unit better now than when you parted ways in 2005?
Stuart: Yes. The gelling may be more similar to when we first started the band. There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end. We were barely friends. Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.
Sam: A lot happens in a decade. How has the changes in the music scene over a decade effect you? Have you noticed a change?
“Recorded music is now coming to a close. Thankfully streaming music is picking up. I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us. Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us.”
Stuart: We’re in a transitory period right now for sure. How long was sheet music king? It wasn’t that long. How long was the 78 king? Not long. Recorded music is now coming to a close. Thankfully streaming music is picking up. I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us. Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us. Any city where we got airplay in the States, like in Seattle, we were big. We played this place called The Moore Theater, where Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were playing, because we were being heard on the radio and people liked it. So the internet has been a very beneficial thing for us. But also, when we started it was sort of more of a mono culture. Everyone got into the same things. Now culture is wide open. Everything is cool and everything is not cool. If you relate it to fashion, back in the day it was about what length is your pants or how wide is your cuffs. Now everything is in. People are wearing bell bottoms and the next person down the street will wear tight pants. There is no consensus, which is a good and a bad thing.
Sam: You talk about the difficulties of breaking in the States, but I know you have a huge following in Australia. Australia has a real love affair with The Tea Party. Why is that?
“Well it comes down to exposure. Australia was the first place we went to. We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things. I almost feel that it could have happened in any country. If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now.”
Stuart: Well it comes down to exposure. Australia was the first place we went to. We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things. I almost feel that it could have happened in any country. If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now. With America it’s a little different, and the label we were on, which was EMI, went bankrupt so that first record sunk. We shipped the second one over for Christmas, or something, and they fired all their rock department. For Transmission we moved over to Atlantic and our album came out the exact same week with their other act, Stone Temple Pilots, and they are only going to promote one act so we got buried under their weight. People don’t know all these little behind the scene things. But Buffalo was the first cities we ever sold out. We had to add a show in San Antonio, and there’s all these little pockets of America where The Tea Party got played and was very popular. But it never turned into a national thing like it did in Australia.
Sam: The Tea Party just came back from Australia. You were there through October. What was the reaction from Australia to have The Tea Party together again?
Stuart: This was unique. A lot of people came out and wrote reviews of the shows. Honestly, we go the best press of the band’s career now. This goes for the record too. We’re getting great press. I don’t know if tastes have changed or if people don’t hate it as much. The critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s biggest paper, came out to see us for the first time after begging him to come over fifteen tours. He came back stage and said “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t come out earlier. You guys are incredible. So much power for a three piece.” He wrote a great story, and ended up doing five stories on us for that paper during the tour. So I guess he liked us. People are coming out of the woodwork all of a sudden. In Europe we get a review like “I’ve been a fan since 1994. I saw you at this little club. I’ve been following you ever since. I’m glad you put out a new record.” So it’s like an infectious disease. Once you get it, there’s no cure.
The Tea Party are touring Canada through November and December. For more information on their tour, The Ocean at the End and their other ongoing projects visit their web-site at http://www.teaparty.com/#tour-section.
POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE: A thanks to Beth Cavanaugh of Indoor Recess for arranging our opportunity to talk with Stuart Chatwood and continuing to introcuing PCA to some of the best musicians in the world. Its always a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to covering more of your artists. Check out Indoor Recess’ content and services at http://www.indoorrecess.com/.
For over seven decades actress June Lockhart has had one of the most varied careers in pop culture. Finding success in film, television and Broadway, she has appeared in space operas, family melodramas, rural comedies, Universal horror films, MGM musicals, live television, anthology programs, kid shows, animation voice acting, and every single sort of genre of television one can possibly imagine. However, despite an amazing career with hundreds of credits to her name, fans will always remember her as two of television’s favorite Moms – Ruth Martin on Lassie and Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space.
The daughter of respected actors Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart, June made her film debut in 1938 when she played her parent’s daughter in A Christmas Carol. Although choosing to focus on her studies instead of being a Hollywood kid, film roles kept calling and via the guidance of her father she found notable parts in a series of well-remembered films including All This, and Heaven Too, Adam Had Four Songs, Sergeant York, Meet Me in St. Louis and Son of Lassie. A move to New York in 1947 to star in For Love or Money on Broadway earned her a Tony Award, and she began to appear on live anthology programs during the golden age of television.
Over seven decades June Lockhart has been in everything from Universal horror films to MGM musicals, but hit big on the pop culture radar as matriarch figures “Lassie,” “Lost in Space” and “Petticoat Junction.”
Gaining a reputation as a well-respected character actress, it was during a low point in her life that she replaced Cloris Leachmen in the role of Ruth Martin on the insanely popular family drama Lassie. The role popularized her in households across North America, and put her on the pop culture radar.
But June would strike pop culture gold when Lassie left the airwaves in 1964 and she changed gears completely and donned a silver space suit to play the youthful mother and wife Maureen Robinson on Irwin Allen’s cult classic Lost in Space. A psychedelic space opera beloved by generations of fans, Lost in Space ended in 1968, where June took another unlikely journey on the Cannonball Express and moved into Petticoat Junction to replace recently deceased star Bea Benederet as Dr. Janet Craig, the new “motherly figure” at the Shady Rest Hotel. June would stay with Petticoat Junction until its end in 1970.
Joan Lockhart has become involved with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, calling herself their “most vocal groupie” and acting as emcee to their concerts.
Three popular series in a twelve year span sealed her his legacy on television, but June’s television appearances would stretch throughout the decades in such TV favorites as Love, American Style, Marcus Welby, Adam-12, The Hardy Boys, Magnum PI, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Quincy, Full House, Babylon 5, Roseanne, The Ren and Stimpy Show, Beverly Hills 90210, The Drew Carey Show, Greys Anatomy and hundreds of other TV programs.
However, in recent years June Lockhart has moved her attention away from acting and has found a new passion working with The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic. A lifelong fan of classic and choral music, June Lockhart considers her to be the group’s most vocal “groupie.”
I had the great pleasure of speaking with June Lockhart as she was preparing for The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic yearly concert at The Wilshire United Methodist Church, which is to be held on November 15th. A lovely lady with a plethora of stories, June and I spoke about music, movies, television and her amazing career.
Sam Tweedle is a writer and pop culture addict who has been entertaining and educating fans of the pop culture journey for a decade. His writing has been featured in The National Post, CNN.com, and Filmfax magazine.
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